I grew up in northern New Jersey. Most people have their prejudices and cliches about New Jersey and lemme tell you, they are all true and a thousand times worse. But my roots aside, growing up anywhere usually locks you in to a certain set of teams to root for. Given my geographic heritage, it makes sense that I am a New York Mets fan, it certainly makes sense that I am a New Jersey Devils fan, and heck, I am even a erstwhile New York Knicks fan. So how the hell did I become a New Orleans Saints fan? A number of factors conspired to make this come to pass.
You should know, I grew up a New York Giants fan. Joining my other fabulous childhood athletic role models Dwight Gooden and Darryl Strawberry is Lawrence Taylor (what a morality threesome there). Those Big Blue Wrecking Crew teams of the late 80's and early 90's are still held in high regard with me and my brother. So what happened? Well, first of all, I moved to Boston for college in the early 90's, right around the time age and Ray Handley got together to destroy everything that was good about those Giants teams. Out of sight was out of mind. Plus, I had so much going on in college that sports, and especially football, was the first thing that got lost in the shuffle. Also around this time, my mother started dating a new gentleman. Well, that is not entirely true, he was barely a man, he was a good 20 years her junior. And while this situation set me and my siblings aback a bit, we eventually accepted and grew to love this man. It was like having another brother, rather than a step dad. And he was a huge New Orleans Saints fan. Huge is actually a very weak word to use here. Gargantuan perhaps? I think you get my point. His passion rubbed off on the rest of the family. My mother, who grew up in the 1960s and therefore was bound by law to find Joe Namath dreamy, had grown up a New York Jets fan, but her allegiances switched pretty quick. They used to fly down to New Orleans a couple times a year to enjoy the city and take in a game or two. In the early aughts, it occurred to them that they could buy season tickets for the price of the two or three games they were buying, so they did that instead. They were New Orleans Saints season ticket holders living in New Jersey. Now that is some hardcore fandom.
Unfortunately, this is where our story takes a tragic turn. In 2005, the city of New Orleans was ravaged by Hurricane Katrina. You may have heard about it, it was in all the papers. Then more tragedy, this time more personal in nature; in early 2006, that man my mother dated, and who was such a wonderful part of my family, suddenly and unexpectedly died of a heart attack at the age of 37. This threw our entire family into mourning and disarray. The city my mother loved was destroyed and the man she loved was dead. She was, needless to say, a tad depressed. My siblings and I decided it would be a good idea if we did what we could to cheer her up. We asked her what would help. She told us it would be nice if we could accompany her to New Orleans for the football games in 2006, as it would be a great tribute for her man and our tourist dollars would help the city. We agreed. I volunteered to go to the first game. I had never been to New Orleans and, truth be told, I had never even to an NFL game (tickets to Giants games were next to impossible to get in my youth). That first game back at the Superdome in New Orleans is legend. The atmosphere was electric and it was the rare time a sporting event transcended those bounds and helped heal a whole city. I was hooked; I became a Saints fan that evening for life. I became a Saints fan because I love the city. I became a Saints fan because the team has a great bunch of fans and I wanted to be a part of that. I became a Saints fan out of tribute to a fallen friend.
Those season tickets are still part of the family, as they have been since 2002. We all still go down with my mother and watch games. We were even rewarded with the 2009 team. I was at the NFC Championship game that year in the Superdome when we beat the Vikings to go to the Super Bowl for the first time. When the overtime kick went through the uprights, that was the absolute loudest noise I have ever heard. Most of the NFL gear I own is Saints gear. I call myself a Saints fan.
So, when you look at my football card collection, you will find a big hole where you would think the Saints should go. I have a mess of Giants cards from my youth, but I didn't collect football cards for a long long time. In the mid to late aughts, I started to gather some Saints cards and a few obligatory pages were created...
Deuce McAllister: (probably my all time favorite Saint)
And my usual mishmash of vintage stuff that I found amongst some boxes:
And that was about it. How could I call myself a fan and have less than 40 Saints cards in my collection? I decided to purchase some lots to augment my collection and in the last year or so, I went a little nuts. When I was in New Orleans, I went to some shops and bought lots. When I was in Cooperstown (no, really) I bought a bunch of lots. I went on eBay and bought a bunch of lots. As has been mentioned a few times on this blog already, my organization skills are less than stellar and now I have a 3200 count monster box full of unsorted Saints cards. I am slowly going through them...making team sets, collating them by year, plucking out inserts and cool players for pages, etc. It has been a slow process, made slower by the fact that I am already neck deep in dealing with shrinking other parts of my collection while growing this one. But it works out well because when I get tired of getting rid of things, I go through the Saints cards, knowing they are here to stay.
So far, making actual pages has been hit or miss, as I have found some great cards but no real unifying themes:
Random random inserts:
Wait, those stickers are neat, and here, look at the backs:
Anyone remember those Huddles dolls? Talk about a relic of their time; who knew they had cards too?
Ugh, this is all a work in progress and I have a lot more to do, obviously, and I will keep you posted as it evolves. I do at least have one page done for certain. One of the lots I bought on eBay was padded with a boatload of 1990 Action Packed cards, including at least 20 Bobby Heberts:
If anyone needs a dozen of these cards, let me know. Also, if you have any Saints cards you'd like to get rid of or something fancy to trade, please email me, they will (eventually) find a good home.